Bill Etheridge, the UKIP MEP who praised Adolf Hitler as a "forceful public speaker" at a recent Ukip conference, has expressed regret for the extolling the Fuhrer’s oratory but maintains he will not resign, adding that his speech, deliver to a conference of young Ukip supporters earlier this month, was "taken out of context" and the subsequent national furore was simply "political opportunism".
Reported by the Express & Star newspaper, Etheridge said: "I do regret my comments in the context of what has happened since the speech. It is just political opportunism to play politics over this. I will not stand down. I have the full backing of the party." For clarity, the 44-year-old added: "Hitler was evil and nothing positive came from him. He used his talent for public speaking to achieve truly evil things. There is nothing admirable about him."
During his speech in Birmingham, Etheridge opined on the topic of giving a great public address, referencing the toothbrush moustached dictator as "the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history".
He said: "When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze. They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word." The MEP did add: "I’m not saying direct copy – pick up little moments."
This is not Etheridge's first dalliance with controversy having once been photographed with a golliwog doll for a book about political correctness.